A young seminarian once asked Frank Sheed for advice on how to be a good priest. “Get to know Jesus,” replied the great Catholic publisher and apologist. “I mean really get to know him, not just about him, and you’ll know the essence of your faith and how to live it through your vocation.”
Today’s reading helps us know Jesus, and ultimately ourselves, better. Entering the scene, we see Jesus “clean house”—and not just any house, God’s house. It’s unclear as to how physical Jesus got, but it’s easy to imagine tables being overturned, coins flying, and shamed merchants shuffling out of the temple.
How do you relate to this Jesus?
Many favor the Jesus who heals, feeds, forgives, accompanies. I do too, but I have always gravitated toward this Jesus—the one who says it like it is, challenges leaders and rules that put people second, and shakes from his sandals the dust of any town that rejects him or his disciples.
Is it possible that the healing Jesus is the same as the radical Jesus? Is it possible that the Jesus who comforts also agitates?
Just before Jesus cleanses the temple, he enters Jerusalem to a crowd chanting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” When the Pharisees tell Jesus to order his disciples to stop, Jesus responds, “if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Then he weeps over Jerusalem and admonishes the people for failing to see God in their midst. Jesus is a compassionate king who focuses on what really matters.
Jesus, therefore, is a threat to those in power. But he’s not interested in politics and power plays. His focus is on the Kingdom, and in this case, the temple as a house of prayer where he and the people connect with God.
Whether healing, feeding, forgiving, admonishing, or turning tables, Jesus is one and the same. He is on mission, and he does what is required to serve that mission. Jealous leaders wanted to kill him, but they couldn’t because the people were “spellbound” by his words and deeds. Or, as some translations have it, the people “hung on his words.”
What if we hung on Jesus’ words? What if we got to know him, not just about him? How, then, might we live our faith and be on mission?
—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.